By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
Brad Keselowski finished third in the Axalta ‘We Paint Winners’ 400 at Pocono Raceway, but his journey to that finish was an intriguing one. Keselowski started the race, which was delayed by one day due to weather, on the pole after out-qualifying his Team Penske teammate Joey Logano.
Keselowski fell behind Logano on the start and slowly drifted back to the seventh position by the time the third caution waved on lap 23. During the round of pit stops, Keselowski, and his No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion team were penalized for unapproved body modifications. The jackman for the team had body slammed the car just ahead of the right rear tire, flaring out the fender. Keselowski had to pit so the team could fix the fender.
Another part of the penalty for Keselowski was a pass-thru penalty on pit road that was assessed under green on lap 25. The penalties dropped Keselowski to the 38th position. It took 55 laps for Keselowski to climb back up and into the top 20. By lap 100, Keselowski was just outside the top 10. 10 laps later, Keselowski was finally back in the top 10, the first time since his penalty.
Keselowski slowly worked his way up, climbing up further. By lap 130, Keselowski was in the fourth position. Keselowski held that position for the next 20 laps, behind Chase Elliott. Keselowski finally worked his way past Elliott for third with just under 10 laps to go. However, there was not enough time for Keselowski to chase down race winner Kurt Busch, and second place finisher Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“It was a long day, but overall a decent weekend for the Miller Lite Ford,” Keselowski said. “It wasn’t really two pit penalties, it was two NASCAR penalties and I’m not sure I really know what happened there. The team guys can probably give you a better answer, but we fought back really well. At the end I think we were capable of winning the race with a really fast car, even with the right side door torn up. I guess we had a little contact there when the 48 was spinning, so it shows how fast we were today. We had great pit stops, but just didn’t bring home the win. But we’re really close and been really strong and consistent lately, which is something we’re proud of.”
When Keselowski was asked if the penalties from NASCAR were frustrating, he answered, “Of course it is frustrating. I don’t know what they saw so it is not really fair for me to say anything about that. I can tell you that every car I saw had some body modifications on it after pit stops out there today. I don’t know if ours was more egregious or even if we had one. That is for the team guys to really answer. Of course it is frustrating. You don’t want to have to come from the back. Almost got back to the front, just came up a little short. A lot of great effort for our team. We needed a tiny bit more left. I could have used a 500 mile race but that might not be the most popular opinion in the garage but it is for me today.”